Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 2

wosm2First Published: July 2012

Contents: Web of Spider-Man #19 (October 1986) to #32 (November 1987); Web of Spider-Man Annual #3 (1987); Amazing Spider-Man #293 (October 1987) and #294 (November 1987); and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #131 (October 1987) and #132 (November 1987)

Key Creator Credits: David Michelinie, Larry Lieber, Len Kaminski, J.M. Dematteis, James Owsley, Mike Zeck, Marc Silvestri, Steve Geiger, and others

Key First Appearances: Humbug, Solo

Story Continues From: Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 1

Overview: Swinging across the city and across the pond, Spider-Man is back in action with amazing adventures and spectacular scenes. This is Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 2!

The stories in this collection fall at either end of the scale – these are either really good or really bad. Focusing on the good tales, Peter and Joy Mercado travel to the United Kingdom, where Spider-Man must rescue Margaret Thatcher from an assassination attempt. We don’t get many political or real-world scenario stories with Spidey (generally), so these issues stand out as a change of pace.

We also get the typical New York mob story as we get the origin story of the Rose, who is the estranged son of the Kingpin. In addition, we get a wrap-up to the Ned Leeds/Hobgoblin arc that had been building for years across the various Spider-Man titles.

The volume concludes with one of the most powerful Spider-Man stories of all time, Kraven’s Last Hunt, which ran across the three monthly books for two months. Kraven takes out Spider-Man and dons his costume to replace him. Kraven buries Peter in a shallow grave. Meanwhile, Vermin is back, kidnapping people into the sewers to feast on them, and his most recent victim is Mary Jane. The storylines all converge together, and Peter must reclaim his title as Spider-Man, leaving Kraven a shattered shell of his former self. This magnificent story from J. M. Dematteis and Mike Zeck remains as one of the greatest arcs of all time.

What makes this Essential?: First, my apologies for spoiling this review. I promoted the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline with my review of Essential Daredevil Vol. 5, not fully realizing that this storyline would be included in this collection. In all fairness, I wanted to make sure I pointed people to this story, one way or another! his is a title that I read sporadically as it came out. I just didn’t have much interest in Spider-Man at this time. The problem I have with this book, and I think Marvel has realized it at different times along the way, is that there is nothing unique to this book that distinguishes it

So, yes, the reason to own this collection is for Kraven’s Last Hunt. This is one of the most powerful Spider-Man stories of all time. This still stands up nearly 25 years later, and it should be part of any collection.

The fact that we get other Spider-Man stories is an added bonus – sort of! The stories from David Michelinie and James Owsley (Christopher Priest) are solid stories. The fill-in issues that round up this volume feel so out of place when lined up against these other tales. This might be a volume where you check the issue credits before reading the issue.

If you like this volume, try: finding two books that were never reprinted in the Essential format, but would be helpful to have read when reading this volume.

The first is Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987), which features the wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. This was a landmark issue years in the making, as the two lovebirds finally tied the knot. The issue featured two different covers – the first had MJ and Peter, with their friends and family in the background, while the second had MJ and Spider-Man, with his enemies in the background. MJ’s dress was actually designed by real-life wedding dress designer Willie Smith. Marvel actually made it into a real event, hosting a ceremony at Shea Stadium. This has been reprinted in multiple trades including the Marvel Weddings TPB.

The second is Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1 (February 1987). This was a stand-alone special edition book that gave us the identity of Hobgoblin, a mystery that had been building for four years in the various Spider-books. Turns out that it was [SPOLIER ALERT FROM 30 YEARS AGO!] mild-mannered reporter Ned Leeds who had been tormenting Spider-Man and trying to take over the crime rackets in New York City. We get a follow-up issue of Web of Spider-Man to this special edition – too bad it wasn’t included in this collection.

Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 1

WofSM1First Published: September 2011

Contents: Web of Spider-Man #1 (April 1985) to #18 (September 1986); Web of Spider-Man Annual #1 (1985) and #2 (1986); and Amazing Spider-Man #268 (September 1985)

Key Creator Credits: Louise Simonson, Greg LaRocque, Danny Fingeroth, Peter David, David Michelinie, Ann Nocenti, Mike Harris, Marc Silvestri, and others

Key First Appearances: Kathryn Cushing, Chance, Foreigner

Story Continues In: Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 2

Overview: He’s back in black — or sometimes red & blue. It’s the Amazing ….. no, that’s not right …. let’s try the Spectacular …. no, still not working here. Guess we better give the Web of Spider-Man a try!

Web 0f Spider-Man replaced the previously canceled Marvel Team-Up on the stands. We were still getting three new Spider-Man titles each month, just with fewer guest appearances. That’s not to say we don’t see guest stars in this collection – from the New Mutants to Dominic Fortune to David Letterman, this book has a little bit of everything.

These issues take place a few months following the Secret Wars event. Spider-Man is still haunted by the symbiote that returned to Earth with him. The series kicks off with Spidey fighting the symbiote, long before it would attach itself to Eddie Brock. A host of other familiar Spider-Man foes, such as the Vulture, Doctor Octopus, and the Shocker, soon follow.

Two longer stories really stand out in this volume. The first is a crossover with Amazing Spider-Man (complete with interlocking cover images) that ties into Secret Wars II. The Beyonder has turned a New York City building into gold, and the government, aided by the Kingpin, is in a mad scramble to remove the building before it destroys the economy. Spider-Man is more concerned about the people trapped inside, and gets upset when he realizes that the Kingpin is going to profit from this event. Spider-Man swings off with a gold notebook, which leads to the ethical questions of what he should do with it while also trying to find a way to unload it too.

Another ongoing story that crossed multiple issues featured Peter Parker as a neighborhood hero. Peter stops a mugging at the laundromat, earning him praise from his neighbors and the media. But the thugs he stopped come back to target Peter, vandalizing his apartment before eventually firebombing his place. Peter struggles to deal with these problems without reverting back to his costumed identity.

What makes this Essential?: This is a title that I read sporadically as it came out. I just didn’t have much interest in Spider-Man at this time. The problem I have with this book, and I think Marvel has realized it at different times along the way, is that there is nothing unique to this book that distinguishes it from Amazing Spider-Man or PPTSS.  There are several issues or moments that stand out in this book, such as Peter’s conversation with Flash Thompson about the high school bullying in issue #11 or Spider-Man chasing Warlock through New York City in Annual #2. But the highs don’t offset the lows in this collection. Maybe low is too harsh. The better word might be pedestrian or average. For the Spider-Man fan, I’m sure you will like this book. For the casual Marvel fan, you might consider other volumes first before this collection.

Footnotes: Web of Spider-Man #replaced Marvel Team-Up on the newsstand. Marvel editorial took a good look at the sales figures and realized that the numbers for Marvel Team-Up rose or dropped based on the co-star. Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter surmised that Marvel would be better off publishing a third Spider-Man solo title, and work in guest-stars when they were appropriate for the story.

If you like this volume, try: the original Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars. This volume has the two-part story that was tie-ins to the Secret Wars II event going on. I am not recommending you go out and read Secret Wars II. Trust me, having read it as it was happening, I have no desire to revisit Secret Wars II anytime soon. But I do go back and revisit the original Secret Wars every couple of years. Yes, this book was created specifically to sell toys. Lots of comics got their start that way, such as G.I. Joe and Transformers. But Marvel took the opportunity to make it a meaningful story, one that would have impacts on the Marvel Universe for years to come. The way the timing happened, we knew what those changes would be as the heroes returned to Earth in the comics that were released one week after Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #1. The biggest change is that Spider-Man returned wearing that spiffy black costume that reacted to his thoughts. What he soon found out is that the suit was an alien symbiote, and the Fantastic Four helped Peter separate himself from the symbiote. In Web of Spider-Man #1, we see the symbiote on the loose, tracking down Spider-Man. At the end of this volume, in Web of Spider-Man #18, we see a mysterious hand push Peter into the path of a subway train. Peter’s spider sense did not warn him, which is one of the advantages that Venom would have over Spider-Man when he made his full proper first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #300. In addition to the Spider-Man costume, Secret Wars also gave us She-Hulk joining the Fantastic Four, and the Thing staying behind on the Battleworld. The Hulk returns with a broken leg and is slowly reverting more and more to his mindless monster mode. And within the Secret Wars series, we see the X-Men working side-by-side with Magneto, which will lead to Magneto taking over the responsibilities for the Xavier School in Uncanny X-Men #200. Give this series a revisit – it’s available in multiple formats (trades, hardcovers, and omnibus editions).

Essential X-Factor Vol. 3

xfactor3First Published: December 2009

Contents: X-Factor #36 (January 1989) to #50 (January 1990); X-Factor Annual #3 (1988); and Uncanny X-Men #242 (March 1989) and #243  (April 1989)

Key Creator Credits: Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Chris Claremont, Kieron Dwyer, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Arthur Adams, Paul Smith, and others

Key First Appearances: Alchemy

Story Continues From: Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential X-Factor Vol. 4

Overview:  This book has a little bit of everything for the mutant fan in all of us. Sit back and enjoy the read of Essential X-Factor Vol. 3.

First up is the Evolutionary War crossover in X-Factor Annual #3. From a chronology point of view, this should have been collected in the prior Essential volume, but there was a lot going on in that book, so we get it here. In the main story, we see X-Factor trying to stop the High Evolutionary from exterminating the Moloids and others that are at the end of their evolutionary development. It’s part of the big storyline running through the annuals that year. The big take away from the annual is the back-up feature, which features the various kids in training with X-Factor, such as Skids, Boom Boom, Rusty, and others, taking off in their own adventures, which would be told in the X-Terminators mini-series – sadly not reprinted in Essential form.

Next up is Inferno, which we have talked about previously with Essential X-Men Vol. 8. The big takeaway for the X-Factor team is the resolution of the Jean Grey-Scott Summers-Madelyne Pryor love triangle. Madelyne is killed, leaving Scott and Jean to resume their lives together raising baby Nathan. As the team all catches their collective breath, the X-Terminator kids return, only to break up their band. Many of the older kids would transfer over to the New Mutants title, becoming key members for the years to come.

But I need to focus on X-Factor here, because we are quickly caught up in the Judgement War. The team is kidnapped and sent across the galaxy to a planet facing judgement by the Celestials. On this planet, everyone is ranked on a perfection scale. Jean Grey is viewed as being perfect, while some of the guys (Beast, Archangel) tend to fall at the bottom of that ranking. The team members work independently before reuniting and stopping the Celestials.

What makes this Essential?: This is a transitional volume. We see Walt Simonson’s run on the book come to an end with the Inferno storyline. The art is handled by committee, with most of the work done by the criminally-underrated Paul Smith. We do experience Rob Liefeld’s first work for Marvel – you decide what to make of that! Through all of this though, writer Louise Simonson continues to provide a steady direction for the title.

My biggest issue with this collection is that the book gets highjacked by events going on in the other X-Men or Marvel Universe books at the time. The first half of this book is given over to tie-ins with the Evolutionary War storyline or the Inferno storyline. Considering that the Inferno story has been reprinted already (see Footnotes), you almost feel cheated by paying full price for half of a volume of “new” material.

Footnotes: X-Factor #36 to #39 and Uncanny X-Men #242 and #243 are also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: the Acts of Vengeance storyline. After multiple summer events which focused solely on the Marvel mutants, this event crossed over across the Marvel Universe. Secretly organized by Loki, the villains unite and agree to change up their normal foes, in an attempt to surprise the heroes. So you have the odd combinations of the Punisher facing Doctor Doom, or Daredevil vs. Ultron. In typical fashion, the villains plans unravel due to infighting and personal agendas. Loki is revealed as the organizer, which leads to yet another face-off with the Avengers. Now, this may be a harder storyline to track down. There was an omnibus released which collected the main issues of the storyline. However, this omnibus has gone out of print, and the prices have skyrocketed in the secondary market (eBay). A second omnibus was released featuring more of the crossover issues, but not the main storyline. This omnibus is still readily found for cover price or less. This may be a case where the thrill of the back issue hunt is more fun, to track down all of the numerous crossovers, which should be noted by a triangle window in the upper right corner of the covers.

Essential X-Men Vol. 9

Essential X-Men Vol. 9

First Published: June 2009

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #244 (May 1989) to #264 (Late July 1990); and Uncanny X-Men Annual #13 (1989)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, and others

Key First Appearances: Jubilation Lee/Jubilee, Matsuo Tsurayaba, Cylla Markham/Skullbuster

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 8 

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 10

Overview: Wow, where to start? This book goes all over the place and back, in the short time frame of 14 months in publishing time.

The book starts out with a key issue, as a new character is introduced that would become a staple of the 1990s team, both in comics and in the animated series. The women of the X-Men plan a girls night out and have Gateway transport them to the ritzy Hollywood Mall. There they encounter a young teenage girl who goes by the nickname of Jubilee. She can create energy plasmoids with her hands, and uses them to her advantage to avoid the mall cops. When the X-Ladies return to their secret headquarters in Australia, Jubilee tags along in secret, and hides out in the basement headquarters until Wolverine tracks her down. From that point, Jubilee becomes an unofficial sidekick to Logan, and eventually a full member of the team.

After that, the story just seems to fall apart. The characters start going their separate ways. Storm is killed – don’t worry, she gets better later. Many of the X-Men are sent through the Siege Perilous, which is like a cosmic reset button for each of the characters. Dazzler returns to Hollywood to become a movie star; Colossus becomes a successful artist; Rogue is transported to the Savage Land to become the consort of Magneto.

The most dramatic of resets comes for Psylocke, who ended up in Japan in control of the Hand. Spiral uses Betsy to save the brain-dead lover of the Hand’s leader, Matsuo Tsurayaba. Betsy’s mind is placed in Kwannon’s body and utilizes the new body’s physical skills to become a new assassin for the Hand, known as the Lady Mandarin. Her first assignment is to kill Wolverine. However, during their battle, Betsy regains control of herself and returns to her Psylocke identity, albeit in a different body.

The volume lumbers to a conclusion, as one-time members Banshee, Forge, and Polaris work to track down the missing X-Men. Unfortunately, you will need to wait until Volumes 10 and 11 to see the full team back together. And when I say the FULL TEAM, I mean there is enough X-Men hanging around to create at least two teams of X-Men!

What makes this Essential?: Two words describe why this should be collected: Jim. Lee. Like many of the “young gun” artists that came up together, Jim Lee took the X-Men by storm (no pun intended). His early issues still command large prices on the secondary market. This is also an era where things get really busy for the X-Men. The monthly book became a bi-weekly book, putting out two issues a month for several stretches at a time.

Personally, the stories in this volume just never appealed to me. The team felt very fragmented, with characters running off on their own adventures. These issues are the first time that I felt you also needed to be reading the Wolverine title in order to understand everything that was going on with him. At this point, Claremont had been scripting the team for over 15 years. Maybe his story well had run dry, or maybe he needed to tear everything apart to rebuild the team in a new direction. These may not be the highlight stories of Claremont’s X-Men career.

If you like this volume, try: the original Excalibur series, which ran from 1988 to 1998. Way back when the Mutant Massacre came to an end, several of the X-Men were severely wounded or damaged. To oversee their care and rehab, Kitty (& Lockheed), Nightcrawler, and Rachel were sent to Muir Island, missing out on many adventures of the X-Men, including their perceived death during the Fall of the Mutants story. The abandoned former X-Men soon joined up with Captain Britain (a Chris Claremont co-created character and the brother of Psylocke) and his girlfriend Meggan (a shapeshifter) came together to form a new team to protect Great Britain. The initial team of Claremont and artist Alan Davis took a fun inventive approach with the characters, working together on the first 24 issues. Davis left the title for awhile but later returned as writer/artist when Claremont stepped away from the book. Over the years, numerous creators would come onboard with their own approaches to the team, but nothing quite matches up to the first two years of books from Claremont/Davis. Also, they flew under the radar of a lot of readers during this era. Excalibur didn’t get caught up in the other ongoing X-Men events (unlike New Mutants and X-Factor), they were left alone to do their own stories. There have been multiple trade paperbacks issued to collect these issues, so they should be somewhat easy to track down.

Essential X-Men Vol. 8

Essential X-Men Vol. 8

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #229 (May 1988) to #243 (April 1989); Uncanny X-Men Annual #12 (1988); and X-Factor #36 (January 1989) to #39 (April 1989)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, Rick Leonardi, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, and others

Key First Appearances: Gateway, Reavers (Bonebreaker, Pretty Boy, Skullbuster), Tyger Tiger, Jenny Ransome, Tam Anderson, Philip Moreau, Genegineer

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 9

Overview: When we last saw the X-Men, the world had watched them die in Dallas during the Fall of the Mutants. Thanks to the goddess Roma, the X-Men were brought back, but their images could no longer be captured on film or video. Free to move about the world, the X-Men set up shop in the Australian Outback, in the former headquarters of the Reavers. There, we meet the mutant known as Gateway, who is able to transport people to any place at any time. Not one to say much, Gateway gladly welcomes the X-Men to their new home.

Following a way-too-short return of the Brood, we are introduced to the island nation of Genosha. Located off of the eastern coast of Africa, Genosha is a thriving nation built on it’s mutant slave labor force. The X-Men get wind of what is going on here, which leads Wolverine and Rogue to go in on a rescue mission. Over the coming years, Genosha would become a major focus in the mutant storyline, while serving as an allegory for the real-life issues of slavery and apartheid.

This volume concludes with the next crossover event known as Inferno. Demons are making plans to take over the Earth, and they plan to use Magik from the New Mutants (and younger sister of Colossus) as their gateway to our world. At the same time, Madelyne Pryor finds out that Jean Grey is alive and well, and that her missing husband has been hanging out with her doppelganger. Guided by Mr. Sinister, Madelyne’s mind slips over the edge, and she becomes the villainous Goblin Queen. During the final battle with the X-Men, the Goblin Queen commits suicide in an attempt to take Jean Grey with her, but fails on that point.

What makes this Essential?: Over his many years on the title, it’s very easy to make jokes about Chris Claremont’s run on the X-Men title. Yes, he can be very wordy – if it takes 15 words to describe a scene, expect Claremont to use 143 words. And don’t worry about any dangling plot points, as Claremont plans to return to them in three years. That said, the more I re-read his run, the more impressed I get with Claremont’s X-Men opus. For example, take the creation of Genosha. At the time of Genosha’s debut in the comics, political and economic pressures were mounting on South Africa, which had been maintaining a policy of apartheid for 40+ years, which treated colored citizens as second-class. Claremont took a real-life situation and incorporated those points into the book. While the Genosha story would continue for many years, the beginnings shown in this volume shows why Claremont is a master of his craft, and why Essential X-Men should be a must read.

Footnotes: Uncanny X-Men #242 and #243 and X-Factor #36 to #39 are also reprinted in Essential X-Factor Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: the Inferno omnibus collections from 2009 and 2010. OK, I really enjoy these Essential volumes. But when we get to these large crossover events, this format is not designed to collect the full story. As we saw with The Fall of the Mutants storyline, we miss out on one-third of the story by not having the New Mutants issues collected in the volume. In addition, there was a four-issue X-Terminators mini-series that ties in with Inferno. So in order to get the COMPLETE story, I recommend you track down the two omnibus collections for this story. The first collection from 2009 includes all of the main mutant books, such as Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New Mutants, and X-Terminators. The second collection from 2010 includes all of the crossover issues across the Marvel Universe, including issues of Avengers, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Power Pack, and issues from all three ongoing Spider-Man books.

Essential X-Men Vol. 7

Essential X-Men Vol. 7

First Published: April 2006

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #214 (February 1987) to #228 (April 1988); Uncanny X-Men Annual #10 (1986) and #11 (1987); and Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1 (February 1987) to #4 (June 1987)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Barry Windsor-Smith, Alan Davis, Arthur Adams, Jackson Guice, Marc Silvestri, and others

Key First Appearances: Crimson Commando, Stonewall, Super Sabre, Mr. Sinister

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 8

Overview: After the events contained in the last Essential X-Men, you have to wonder where the X-Men can go from here. The Mutant Massacre have left the X-Men at half-strength, with Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat severely injured. Magneto is overseeing the New Mutants, and the X-Men team is down to the still-powerless Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, and Psylocke.

First up is to build up the ranks of the team. During a battle in the Mojo Universe that involved the X-Babies, Longshot returned with the team to Earth and became a member of the team. On a chance encounter, the X-Men extend an offer to Dazzler, the mutant with light powers that was first introduced prior to the Dark Phoenix Saga. Next up is Havok, the younger brother of Cyclops that once did time with the X-Men in the 1960s. He rejoins the team, as the world has become dangerous to all mutants with the Marauders on the loose. During this time, Havok’s former sister-in-law, Madeline Pryor, starts hanging out with the X-Men, leading to some awkward interactions when they cross paths with X-Factor.

While a lot of these stories are one or two-parters, the overarching storyline is building to a confrontation in Dallas, known as the Fall of the Mutants. This event also crossed over with X-Factor (see Essential X-Factor Vol. 2) and New Mutants, but each title had its own story thread under the Fall of the Mutants banner. Storm has traveled to Dallas to find Forge, and force him to find a way to return her powers to her. The X-Men follow and encounter Freedom Force, led by Mystique and comprised of the former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Storm and Forge are battling the Adversary, a foe that has been tormenting Forge for years. The only way to stop the Adversary is by the X-Men sacrificing themselves, which they reluctantly do if it will save the Earth.

However, the sorceress Roma, who had been saved by the X-Men during this battle, saves the souls of the X-Men and gives them the chance to live again. They are still considered dead because they could put their loved ones in danger if it was known that the X-Men were still alive. As a side effect of saving them, the X-Men find out that their images cannot be recorded by electronic devices, keeping them hidden from most of the world. The volume ends as the world mourns the loss of the X-Men, and the X-Men prepare for a new direction for the team.

What makes this Essential?: I find it a challenge to review some of these volumes that collect issues that I originally collected off of the newsstand spinner rack. Truth be told, I think I actually had a mail subscription to Uncanny X-Men in this era. When I was reading this month-to-month, in a world without the Internet and spoilers, we were on the edge each month wondering where Chris Claremont and friends would take the mutants in the next issue. Twenty-five years later, reading them all in a row in a short time period, I really start to appreciate the grand vision that Claremont was laying out for us. This is a good volume for the X-Men fan. However, if you want to read the full Fall of the Mutants storyline, you need to pick up the Omnibus that collected all of that storyline.

If you like this volume, try: The X-Men vs. The Avengers mini-series from 1987, 25 years before the AvX nonsense of 2012. Released around the same time as the Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men mini-series, it was not included in this volume. The story takes place shortly after the events of Uncanny X-Men #200 when Magneto is brought to the World Court to be held accountable for his actions in Uncanny X-Men #150. The Russians are still upset with Magneto for his actions, and send the Soviet Super-Soldiers after him. At the same time, the Avengers are called on to stop a pair of asteroids falling towards Earth. They discover that one of the asteroids is Magneto’s former headquarters, so it is time to pay a visit to the X-Men. As with any of these meet-ups, a confrontation ensues pitting the teams against each other. The original plot by Roger Stern called for Magneto to resume his evil ways in the final issue, but Marvel editorial stepped in, wanting to let the Magneto story play out in the pages of Uncanny X-Men under Chris Claremont. That may help explain why Jim Shooter gets a writing credit for #4. This has been collected a couple of times, most recently as a premiere edition in 2010.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

First Published: June 1998

Contents: Wolverine #48 (November 1991) to #69 (May 1993)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, Mark Texeira, and others

Key First Appearances: Team X, Mastodon, John Wraith, Psi-Borg

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Overview: Pop open a cold brewski, light a cigar, and sit back to enjoy the latest collection of Wolverine stories from the early 1990s. But drink and smoke in moderation, because I’m willing to bet you do not have a mutant healing factor to offset the vices.

Kicking off this volume, Wolverine enlists the X-Men’s help as he struggles to put the pieces together of his mysterious past. Following the events of Weapon X, Wolverine encounters former members of Team X, as he realized that he was not the only person who was experimented on.

Next up is a time-traveling adventure that brings Logan and Mystique together to stop Mojo. Parts of this story will remain a mystery until it is revisited by Larry Hama later on in his run, which will be collected in Essential Wolverine Vol. 4.

Wolverine finds himself going to Japan to bail out Jubilee. This leads to an encounter with his beloved Mariko, whose life comes to a tragic end during a battle with the Hand. The loss of Mariko sends Wolverine spiraling downward in a depression trying to deal with her death.

Strangely, this volume ends with issue #69, which started a three-issue story involving Rogue and Sauron in the Savage Land. If you were only reading Wolverine by Essential volumes, you were forced to wait eight years to read the conclusion of that story (see Footnotes).

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting collection, as the comics cover all the variations of the typical Wolverine tale – stories involving the X-Men; time-travel stories; Wolverine in Japan; fights with Sabertooth; and the occasional filler issue featuring the rising star character, such as Shatterstar. So this is a good example of a lot of the different stories that can be told with Logan. My concern with this volume, as with the previous Essential, is that most of these stories are not memorable. I struggle to write a review for this, as I am not recalling these stories. This is a case where the character justifies the volume, but not necessarily the stories contained within the Essential. 

Footnotes: Once again, the cover spells Silvestri’s first name with a K (Mark), but it should be spelled with a C (Marc).

Because of the number of double-page spreads, the covers to some stories appear at the end of the story to minimize the number of blank pages in the book. Unfortunately, this meant some issues ended and the next started up without the reader noticing until the next set of issue credits comes up. For example, with the final four issues in this volume, it runs: Cover to #66, Issue #66; Issue #67; Cover to #67; Issue #68; Cover to #68; Cover to #69; and Issue #69.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3 was released in June of 1998, but Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 was not released until May of 2006. During the long gap, Marvel reprinted Volumes 1-3 multiple times, as the cover format was updated in the early 2000s.

If you like this volume, try: the Weapon X story, if you have not read it already. And shame on you if you haven’t read this! The story originally ran in Marvel Comics Presents as a 13-part story. It has been collected multiple times in multiple formats, so it should not be hard to find. Written and exquisitely drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, we finally learn how Logan received the adamantium in his skeleton. As many questions as this story answered, it also introduced even more questions into the back story of Wolverine. The initial story arc in this Essential serves as a sequel to the Weapon X story, as Wolverine meets up with other participants from the Weapon X complex.